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Trump Administration Threatens Tariffs On $25 Billion Worth Of European Imports


Here's another thing that Europe is pretty upset with the U.S. about. The Trump administration is threatening tariffs on $25 billion worth of European imports. These include cheese, pasta, olive oil. NPR's Scott Horsley reports some American companies say the tariffs will be hard to swallow.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The proposed tariffs are supposed to be a response to what the administration calls unfair subsidies for Airbus, part of a long running battle between the European plane-maker and its U.S. rival Boeing. This latest round is not being fought at 30,000 feet but rather in the dairy case and the gourmet aisle of the supermarket. This week, the U.S. trade representative added another $4 billion worth of potential tariff targets, including Gruyere, gouda and provolone cheese.

RALPH HOFFMAN: It will cause chaos in the specialty cheese distribution and sales market.

HORSLEY: Ralph Hoffman's with Schuman Cheese in New York, which bills itself as the nation's largest importer of hard Italian cheese. He notes Italy is not even part of the European consortium that makes Airbus planes. This food fight, he complains, has nothing to do with airline parts. Imported olive oil is also on the target list, facing a possible tariff of 100%. Joseph R. Profaci, who heads the North American Olive Oil Association, says when the price of imports doubles, consumers can't simply switch to domestic olive oil. Even in their best year, he says, U.S. growers can supply less than 5% of the market.

JOSEPH R PROFACI: First of all, it's going to really reduce demand. And you know, unfortunately, it's not as though there's an alternative to olive oil other than another cooking oil.

HORSLEY: To be sure, some domestic producers are encouraging the tariffs. Pear farmers in the Pacific Northwest, for example, complain they, too, have been hurt by unfair European subsidies. Still, cheese importer Hoffman says the tariffs are likely to have unintended consequences.

HOFFMAN: There's a lot more at play than cheese or olive oil or other food items.

HORSLEY: Europe is weighing its own retaliatory tariffs on American products, including orange juice and frozen lobster.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.